GOOD

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is #8 on The 2014 GOOD City Index

Budapest is in the midst of a heated dialogue about its future. Earlier this year, alongside the re-election of conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, there was a rise in votes for the ultra-conservative Jobbik party, whose values include anti-Semitic and anti-Roma sentiments. And, while gay pride parades are a cause for celebration in most other cities around the world, the one in Budapest this summer was marred by bullying and death threats to LGBT campaigners. But 2014 also saw a growing and inspiring counterculture asserting itself. In August, “Pimpikes Dream,” an LGBT-friendly community center opened in District V and in November, the prime minister was forced to shelve a plan for an internet tax, after record numbers of protesters in Budapest loudly rejected the idea. Events like the globally crowdsourced design contest for Liget Budapest and the internationally recognized ArtMarket Budapest show how creativity and ingenuity are pushing back against the tide of repressive policies.


\nHub for progress

Brody House, the famous boutique hotel and headquarters for many Budapestian bohemians, has done much to change the city’s artistic landscape through projects that support and promote local and international artists, musicians and filmmakers. Today, it’s a hub for innovation and creativity, offering local artists and performers professional venues, studios, and coworking spaces. This year, it began hosting a series of monthly literary dinners, with “bespoke menus” and visits from big shot authors from Russia, Germany, and France, as well as from local author Tibor Fischer.

\nCivic engagement

Many people in Budapest have expressed concern over Prime Minister Orban’s policies. Earlier this year, he took steps to prevent NGOs in Hungary from receiving foreign funding, a step many viewed as an attempt to thwart more progressive forces within the country. Despite government intimidation, many openly protested Orban’s decision to “audit” these NGOs, drawing international attention in the process. In October, a protest in the city’s Blaha Lujza Square, led by Hungarian NGO Human Platform, adopted the slogan “Make Yourself Free” and called for more people to oppose the government policy.

\nStreet life

Budapest is split up into districts, each with its own town hall and mayor. The working class area, known as Józsefváros in the VIII District, has historically suffered from poor infrastructure and facilities, and its unsavory reputation has led locals to refer to it as more or less a ghetto. This year, the local government expanded its decade-long project to renovate and clean up that part of the city, investing 4 billion Euros into the project. New roads were laid down, a brand-new market hall opened in March in Teleki Square, and a much-needed green space was added.

Defining moment

When the memorial to the victims of the German invasion of 1944 commenced construction in Szabadság Square in April under the cover of darkness,controversy followed. Some claimed that the monument falsified the Horthy era (named for Admiral Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s controversial leader during World War II who had alliances with Hitler) and glossed over Hungary’s involvement in the Holocaust. Protesters constructed a makeshift “living memorial,” opposite to the statue, bringing personal objects belonging to those who died in concentration camps and placing stones, old photographs, and candles around it.

\nConnectivity

The city’s growing metro network expanded earlier this year with the long awaited opening of Line 4, which runs from the city’s fringes in Buda to downtown Pest. In addition to its celebrated architecture and rather psychedelic design aesthetic, it’s the first automated metro route in Central-Eastern Europe. Another transportation improvement came with the MOL BuBi bike rental system, which opened in September and registered 100,000 users in its first month in operation.

Green life

During 2014, the city’s Museum of Fine Arts hosted the Liget Budapest Project in an effort to revitalize the grounds of City Park. The design contest is accepting proposals from international and Hungarian architects for a complete renewal of the park’s green space as well as the construction of several new buildings, all with the goal of making the site a European cultural hub.

Diversity ​

Despite Budapest’s lingering problems with anti-Semitism, a youth-led movement formed this year to promote tolerance of all forms. Launched in March, the European-wide No Hate Speech Movement was anchored in Budapest with the European Youth Center Budapest hosting a five-day seminar on the effects of Islamophobia and religious intolerance. The wider online campaign, which will run until 2015, is also focused on cyberbullying, promoting the concept of “net citizenship,” and creating tolerant, human rights-focused online spaces.

Work/life balance

In the warmer months, crowds flock to the city’s unique kerts, outdoor pubs that are constructed out of the city’s ruins. The most popular of these, Szimpla Kert (meaning “simple garden”), is the pioneer of this now-infamous nightlife trend and celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this year. Budapest is buzzing at all hours, with 24-hour bars like Kakas on Deák Square and numerous street festivals celebrating all facets of local life, from food and drink to culture and the arts.

Jennifer Walker is an ex-physicist turned freelance writer. She grew up in Budapest and returned a couple of years ago to fall in love with the city all over again. She's passionate about the arts, underground culture, dilapidated art nouveau buildings, languages, and travel—all reasons why she decided to move back.

Features
AFP News Agency / Twitter

A study out of Belgium found that smart people are much less likely to be bigoted. The same study also found that people who are bigoted are more likely to overestimate their own intelligence.

A horrifying story out of Germany is a perfect example of this truth on full display: an anti-Semite was so dumb the was unable to open a door at the temple he tried to attack.

On Wednesday, October 9, congregants gathered at a synagogue in Humboldtstrasse, Germany for a Yom Kippur service, and an anti-Semite armed with explosives and carrying a rifle attempted to barge in through the door.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
via Andi-Graf / Pixabay

The old saying goes something like, "Possessions don't make you happy." A more dire version is, "What you own, ends up owning you."

Are these old adages true or just the empty words of ancient party-poopers challenging you not to buy an iPhone 11? According to a new study of 968 young adults by the University of Arizona, being materialistic only brings us misery.

The study examined how engaging in pro-environmental behaviors affects the well-being of millenials. The study found two ways in which they modify their behaviors to help the environment: they either reduce what they consume or purchase green items.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

One of the biggest obstacles to getting assault weapons banned in the United States is the amount of money they generate.

There were around 10 million guns manufactured in the U.S. in 2016 of which around 2 million were semiautomatic, assault-style weapons. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry's trade association, the U.S. industry's total economic impact in 2016 alone was $51 billion.

In 2016, the NRA gave over $50 million to buy support from lawmakers. When one considers the tens of millions of dollars spent on commerce and corruption, it's no wonder gun control advocates have an uphill battle.

That, of course, assumes that money can control just about anyone in the equation. However, there are a few brave souls who actually value human life over profit.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Reddit and NASA / Wikimedia Commons

Trees give us a unique glimpse into our past. An examination of tree rings can show us what the climate was like in a given year. Was it a wet winter? Were there hurricanes in the summer? Did a forest fire ravage the area?

An ancient tree in New Zealand is the first to provide evidence of the near reversal of the Earth's magnetic field over 41,000 years ago.

Over the past 83 million years there have been 183 magnetic pole reversals, a process that takes about 7,000 years to complete.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Pixabay

The final episode of "The Sopranos" made a lot of people angry because it ends with mob boss Tony Soprano and his family eating at an ice cream parlor while "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey plays in the background … and then, suddenly, the screen turns black.

Some thought the ending was a dirty trick, while others saw it as a stroke of brilliance. A popular theory is that Tony gets shot, but doesn't know it because, as his brother-in-law Bobby Baccala said, "You probably don't even hear it when it happens, right?"

So the show gives us all an idea of what it's like to die. We're here and then we're not.

Keep Reading Show less
Health